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OCAD University to recognize five changemakers with honorary doctorates

Headshots of the five honorands: Kat Holmes, Robert Houle, Philip B. Lind, Nancy McCain and Rosemary Sadlier.

Top row, left to right: Kat Holmes, Robert Houle, Philip B. Lind. Bottom row, left to right: Nancy McCain, Rosemary Sadlier. 

This year’s honorands include an outspoken leader of inclusive design, one of Canada’s most influential First Nations artists, a Canadian telecommunications icon, a leading supporter of Canadian arts and culture and one of the founders of Black History Month. 

On June 9, OCAD University will award honorary doctorates to five remarkable individuals who have been leaders of change, having made a direct impact on arts and culture in Canada and worldwide.

“We are excited to honour these inspiring individuals who have left indelible marks in their respective fields, making positive change possible,” says OCAD U’s President and Vice-Chancellor Ana Serrano. “These honorands all share the same exceptional passion and commitment to driving meaningful, long-lasting impact that we encourage at OCAD U.”

The honorands will join more than 700 students from OCAD U’s three faculties and Graduate Studies who will be receiving their diplomas at Roy Thomson Hall. 

Meet the 2023 honorary doctorate recipients:

  • Kat Holmes has influenced some of the biggest names in tech, including Microsoft, Google and Salesforce, where she is currently Executive Vice-President and Chief Design Officer. Holmes has been recognized internationally as a leader of inclusive design. Her award-winning Inclusive Toolkit was inducted into the Smithsonian Institution's Cooper Hewitt Design Museum and her global best-selling book, Mismatch: How Inclusion Shapes Design, explores why designing with excluded communities drives better solutions for everyone.
  • Robert Houle is regarded as one of the most influential First Nations artists in the contemporary art world. During his 50-year career, Houle, an Anishinaabe Saulteaux contemporary artist, curator, educator, writer, and critic, has played a pivotal role in bridging the gap between contemporary Indigenous art and the Canadian art scene. His work led to a major shift in public art galleries and museums, shedding light on significant issues affecting Indigenous peoples and decolonizing major public arts institutions. He served as the first Indigenous Curator at the Canadian Museum of Civilization and was the first professor of Indigenous Studies at OCAD University, where he taught for close to 20 years. 
  • Philip B. Lind is known as the “Right Hand Man” who guided the success of Ted Rogers, hence, the title of his memoir, co-written with Robert Brehl. As one of the founders of Rogers Communications, Lind was instrumental in helping build Rogers into a multi-billion-dollar empire in less than four decades. Lind championed the development of multilingual, multicultural and specialty programming and service concepts, such as community channels and CPAC.  A philanthropist and ardent supporter of the arts and the environment, Lind has provided his generous support to many institutions across Canada, among them, The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery, where he served as Chair, Art Gallery of Ontario, Vancouver Art Gallery and the Sierra Club of Ontario, which he founded. 
  • Nancy McCain has played a transformative role in supporting Canadian arts and culture. A passionate community builder, McCain’s philanthropy and professional guidance centers largely around shifting power and supporting those most in need. As Chair of the Toronto Foundation, she helps steward funding to some of Toronto’s most challenged citizens. As former Chair of the Arts Access Fund, she has contributed to providing arts scholarships for youth in need, and as President of the Morneau-McCain Foundation, she is leading an initiative with the University of Toronto to provide scholarships and permanent residency to refugee girls from Kakuma Refugee Camp, Kenya. McCain has played a significant leadership role in many of Canada’s arts and culture institutions, including the National Gallery of Canada Foundation, the National Arts Centre, the Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery, Soulpepper Theatre Company and the Sobey Art Foundation.
  • Rosemary Sadlier has been at the forefront of countless initiatives aimed at educating the public on Black Canadian history. She is one of the original driving forces insecuring the commemoration of February as Black History Month, as well as Emancipation Day, at all levels of government in Canada. As a social justice advocate, researcher, writer, consultant and international speaker on Black history, anti-racism and women’s issues, Sadlier served as the unpaid leader of the Ontario Black History Society (OBHS) for 22 years. She led the OBHS in the development of a wide variety of educational projects and presentations. An accomplished author, Sadlier has written seven books on significant events and contributions made by Blacks in Canada.


Kat Holmes 

Doctor of Design, Honoris Causa

Kat Holmes has led experience design for some of the most influential technologies in the world. Currently, she’s the Executive Vice-President and Chief Design Officer of Product Experience at Salesforce, where she's driving the future of marquee products that centre customer relationships and trust.

As the author of the global bestselling book, Mismatch: How Inclusion Shapes Design, she works with multidisciplinary teams to set a foundation for why designing with excluded communities drives better solutions for everyone.

Formerly at Microsoft and Google, she was named one of Fast Company's Most Creative People in Business, and her award-winning Inclusive Toolkit was inducted into the Smithsonian Institution's Cooper Hewitt Design Museum. Her work has been featured by NPR, BBC, Fast Company, Forbes, The Economist, and many others. 

Her work stems from three core values: There’s no such thing as an average human being. People should be in the lead, not just the center, of technology. Work with people you enjoy being around and make something worth making.


Robert Houle

Doctor of Fine Arts, Honoris Causa

Robert Houle is a Toronto artist and a member of Sandy Bay First Nation, Manitoba. He graduated from both the University of Manitoba (BA) and McGill University (BEd) and studied painting and drawing at the International Summer Academy of Fine Arts in Salzburg, Austria. 

Houle has been exhibiting internationally for over 50 years and taught at OCAD University for close to 20 years. As an artist, curator, educator and critic, he has created change in museums and public art galleries, initiating critical discussions about the history and representation of Indigenous peoples and has played a significant role in retaining and defining First Nations identity drawing on Western art conventions to tackle lingering aspects of colonization and its postcolonial aftermath. 

As a writer, Houle has written many essays and monographs on contemporary First Nations and Native American artists, including Rebecca Belmore, Bonnie Devine, Robert Davidson, Faye HeavyShield, Alex Janvier, Norval Morrisseau, Daphne Odjig, Arthur Shilling and Kay WalkingStick among others. 

Houle's considerable influence has led to his being awarded the Founder’s Achievement Award from the Toronto Friends of the Visual Arts (2020), two honorary doctorates, the 2015 Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts, the Eiteljorg Contemporary Art Fellowship (2003), the Toronto Arts Award (2001) and the Janet Braide Memorial Award for Excellence in Canadian Art History (1993). 

The Art Gallery of Ontario is currently touring a major retrospective of Houle’s work, slated to open in June 2023 at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington. 


Philip B. Lind

Doctor of Laws, Honoris Causa

Philip B. Lind serves as Vice-Chair of Rogers Communications. He joined the Company in 1969 as Programming Chief and has served as Secretary of the Board and Senior Vice-President, Programming and Planning.  

He is also Chair of the Board of the CCPTA (Channel 17, WNED) and a director of the Atlantic Salmon Federation, Art Gallery of Ontario, U.S. Cable Center, Denver and Albright Knox Foundation Canada.  

Lind has been Chair of The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery, Canada’s leading public gallery devoted to contemporary art, located in Toronto, and served as a trustee for the Vancouver Art Gallery from 2011 to 2021. 

He sponsors the annual Philip B. Lind Emerging Artist Prize, awarded annually by North Vancouver’s Polygon Gallery to an emerging B.C.–based artist working across the mediums of film, photography, or video.   

Lind holds a BA (Political Science and Sociology) from the University of British Columbia and an MA (Political Science) from the University of Rochester. In 2002, he received a LL.D, honoris causa, from the University of British Columbia and in 2016 ,he was awarded the UBC Alumni Award of Distinction. In 2002, Lind was appointed to the Order of Canada. In 2012, he was inducted into the U.S. Cable Hall of Fame, the third Canadian to be so honoured. 


Nancy McCain

Doctor of Laws, Honoris Causa

Nancy McCain is committed to community building, an advocate for education, and a strong supporter of Canadian arts and culture. As Chair of the Toronto Foundation, she helps guide efforts to connect philanthropy with Toronto’s most pressing needs, furthering the foundation’s goal of shifting power and funding imbalances in Canada’s largest city. 

A steadfast supporter of the arts in Canada, she is Co-Chair of the National Arts Centre’s campaign to lead the post-pandemic renewal of the Canadian performing arts sector and a board member of the Sobey Art Foundation, Art Canada Institute and Canadian Council for American Relations.

Previous contributions to supporting the arts and artists include roles as President of The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery, Chair of the Canadian Art Foundation, and Chair of the Arts Access Fund, which helps young people in need develop their artistic talents, as well as board roles with the National Gallery of Canada Foundation and Soulpepper Theatre Company. 

With her husband Bill Morneau, she is leading an initiative with Wordsworth College at the University of Toronto to provide full five-year scholarships and permanent residency to refugee girls from Kakuma Refugee Camp, Kenya.

As a member of the Board of Governors for Acadia University, she has championed initiatives that support students’ well-being, including the Centre for Student Success. Most recently, she served as Chair of the Campaign for Acadia, the university’s most successful fundraising campaign in history. 

She earned an MA in Arts Administration from New York University, a BA from Acadia University and in 2021, she was awarded an honorary doctorate from Acadia University. 


Rosemary Sadlier

Doctor of Letters, Honoris Causa

Rosemary Sadlier, OOnt (Order of Ontario), is a social justice advocate, researcher, writer, DEI consultant, and international speaker on Black History, anti-racism and women’s issues.

She is past President, serving for 22 years as the unpaid leader, of the Ontario Black History Society, being the driving force/initiator of the secured commemoration of February as Black History Month at all levels of government. She initiated August 1st as Emancipation Day commemorations in 1994, with success municipally in 1995, provincially in 2008 and the national declaration in March 2021.

She saw the creation of the national day for the Hon. Lincoln Alexander. She is the Royal Commonwealth Society Equality Lead for the Americas and the Caribbean and has given deputations to the UN Rapporteur on Race Relations, the federal and provincial governments and on consultative work with the Royal Ontario Museum, CMHR, The Ward Heritage Interpretative Group, the Bi-National Study of the Underground Railroad and numerous heritage conferences.

Previously she served on the final selection committee of the national Mathieu Da Costa Challenge for Canadian Heritage and is a past member of the Canada Post Stamp Advisory Committee.

An educator, she has developed or contributed to African Canadian curriculum, resources, national exhibits and she is an appointed member of a regulatory board of the Ontario College of Teachers. She was among the first Canadians to be designated as a Global Defender of Human Rights (CTF and Robert Kennedy Center). An author, Sadlier has written seven books on African Canadian history, one a bestseller. She is dedicated to social justice and using the frame of Black History, seeks to educate and empower others.